“When something like that happens, you usually like to have it happen at home, so your family and friends can be there,” he says. “But, if I were to choose another place, this is a fantastic one, because it was 15 great years of my life in this area.”
During last year’s Elite Eight, Kansas ousted the Heels, who were hurt by the injury absence of former star point guard Kendall Marshall. This year, the Jayhawks haven’t showed many signs of slowing down; they took the Big 12 Conference Championship and sit at an impressive record of 30-5 overall—but one of those losses came to Oklahoma, who only managed a no. 10 seed for the NCAA tournament, and two others came to Baylor andTCU, who were both left without invitations to the Big Dance.
Jayhawk senior center Jeff Withey was ranked third nationally in blocks for the regular season, with an average of almost four per game—meanwhile, no current Tar Heel player on the roster averaged even one. Withey tallied seven blocks on Friday night against Western Kentucky, and he also led the Jahawks in scoring with 17 points.
And while the Heels hit a solid 11-21 from beyond the arc against Villanova, they also hit several rough patches in the process.
“When they started pressuring us, we got the ball and attacked it instead of letting it attack us,” says Hairston. “We got some wide-open shots, and then we were in our motion offense. I felt like we moved a lot better, set screens for shooters, and opened up driving lanes for Dexter [Strickland] and Marcus [Paige], which got me and Reggie some easy kick-outs and wide-open three’s.”